Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Purple, White and Yellow - Names...

am here referring to the last two posts in this blog. I'm afraid my readers will have to do a bit of up/down scrolling to see the pictures and compare them to my list of names. Sorry! I am now going to attempt to name the wild flowers that I have recently photographed, all flowering within a half-mile of our home on the Isle of Skye. 

I am aware that for the precise identification of a wild flower, a serious botanist will need to see the whole plant, but I am not going to try to provide botanical names for my flowers. When it comes to common names, many wild flowers (if not all of them) have multiple different names... so I am going to offer the names I know these flowers by.

I welcome comments and corrections - I am not at all certain that my names are entirely accurate - and what is number 22...???  Over to you...

1.Tufted vetch

2. Buttercup

3. Speedwell

4. Tormentil

5. Hawkbit

6. Some variety of plantain

7. Ragged Robin

8. Northern marsh orchid

9. Foxglove

10. Ox-eye daisy

11. Common spotted orchid

12. Purple saxifrage

13. Heath bedstraw

14. Some variety of bee orchid

15. Spear thistle

16. Cow parsley

17 White and purple marsh thistles

18. Birdsfoot trefoil

19. Red clover

20. Ling heather

21. Some other kind of plantain

22. No idea…!

23. Common hogweed

24. Stinging nettle

25. White clover

26. Bull thistle

27. Goosegrass (and a prize for the teeniest flower...)

28. Yellow vetch

29. Ragwort

30. Yarrow

31. Meadowsweet

32. Red campion

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Purple, White and Yellow - Some More...

I'm beginning to wish I hadn't started this... Having photographed some 26 different flowering wild plants while out very locally with Cupar-the-Collie the other day, I now can't stop looking for more... and, yes, there are quite a few I missed. So here's a further small selection, and I know there are still at least a couple that I am yet to photograph, plus others currently in bud which will flower soon...

I am trying to name them all, and will post my list of those I am certain of, and those I am guessing at, in a few days time.







Monday, 5 July 2021

Purple, White And Yellow

Every spring and summer on Skye, we are enchanted by the flourishing outburst of wild flowers that wave and blossom on every inch of roadside and moor. The plants squash together in a chaotic muddle, and thrust their flowers towards the sky to attract the pollinating insects that ensure more similar plants the following year. The sheer variety of shape and size of plant and flower is bewildering, but in colour, they all tend towards purple, white or yellow. I challenge anyone to name them all.... 

(Photos all taken today within half a mile of the Barn).



























Monday, 14 June 2021

A New Project Underway

Old age creeps on. We are very gradually reducing the holiday cottage business, as property and garden maintenance, to say nothing of all the turn-rounds, becomes slightly more of a challenge. However, I can't stop mowing lawns and polishing shower screens and then have nothing at all to do... 

So... the picture below shows the beginnings of our latest project, which is to build a garden room and greenhouse on the back lawn here at The Barn. The BIG plan is that garden room will be fully insulated and heated, and will in due course be fitted out as a pottery studio. I will then get back into that area of creativity that I haven't touched since 1995, when I last taught Art and Pottery. (Oh my - was it really that long ago...!!!)

The greenhouse will be a lean-to onto the garden room, with french doors between the two, so it will have a conservatory feel to it. The plan here will be to grow our own bedding plants, plus to have some semi-permanent plants in the greenhouse, to make it a pleasant place to sit when warm enough.

It could be pots and plants for Christmas presents from now on...

Breaking ground

My sketch plan
It'll be french doors on the front,
as I realised I would need a wide opening for access 

Monday, 7 June 2021

Another Garden Post

May on Skye is often the driest month of the year. This year, it was even drier than usual, but there's enough moisture in the soil for things to grow. It's been sunny and calm too, and as we don't get the scorching heat that often affects the south of the UK, the garden and the allotment are looking great. 

After a little furry friend chomped through the entire first sowing of broad beans, the second sowing are now up and looking healthy. There's a few gaps, where said friend pinched the seeds almost as soon as I had planted them, but unless he now returns for 'seconds' - it looks like we might get a crop of broad beans this year after all.

The weather forecast for the next few days is suggesting that we might get some gale force winds - which are not at all unusual here. I know from past experience that young runner beans can be severely damaged by strong winds, so I have spent a while this afternoon constructing a shelter for them, which I hope will be enough to keep them happy.

I can't resist adding another photo of my 'secret garden'. The ground was once a wasteland of gorse, bramble and wild grasses, but over the years, I have 'managed' a large part of it, but still let wild plants like nettles, docks, buttercups and of course bluebells, have their space - there is still gorse and brambles too, behind where I stood to take the picture. It's a bit of a change from manicured lawns and neatly trimmed hedges - not that you see much of that kind of garden on Skye!

Broad beans! The big one nearest the camera is the sole survivor from the first sowing.

The wind-shelter for the runner beans.
The bottles in the foreground protect the young sprout and kale plants. 
(I ran out of bottles, so four kale are having to fend for themselves...)
The bottles can come off next week, once the forecast windy weather is past.

My 'Secret Garden'
Note - we still have a blue sky!

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Beautiful Blue

Following on from our recent unusually good daffodil display, the Roskhill bluebells are now at their best. Unfortunately, almost no-one gets to see them, as they are tucked-away in what I think of as the 'secret garden', which is a semi-wild area between the allotment and the river gorge. So enjoy the pictures - oh, and note the wonderful blue sky, too!

Friday, 28 May 2021

The Bean-Burglar Mystery

 Well, I don't think it's Mr Bobtail.

Following-on from my last post, I have been watching the bean-bed in the allotment. The chicken-wire frames I made to deter an attack from bunnies have not moved or been dug-under at all, and yet three more of my surviving four young bean plants from the first sowing have now succumbed to the thief. As before - the juicy green growing tips are chewed-off and left on the soil, while the actual seed is dug-out from beneath and devoured. I have a strong suspicion that some of the second-sowing have also been removed, as there are random holes appearing, and no new growth is visible above ground yet.

So who is the perpetrator? We are seeking someone small enough to get through the chicken wire, who can dig, doesn't eat green veg, but loves to gorge on germinating bean seeds.

I'm now thinking field vole - we get a lot of them here. Though they've always been around, and this is the first time I've lost any broad beans in this way.

I'll put up a sign - 'No bean-eating' - but I'm not sure it'll work, as I don't think voles can read. 

It doesn't look like we'll be eating home-grown broad beans this year...

The sole surviving plant is at the bottom. 
Two chewed-off tops wither on the soil. 

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Bunnies And Beans

 I don't doubt that every gardener feels that they are the most victimised person on the planet when it comes to crop failures. There is no question that seeing a young plant begin to grow and flourish, only to meet an untimely demise in the jaws of a caterpillar is quite dis-spiriting. I don't suppose plant husbandry is really any more demanding on Skye than it might be anywhere else. At least we don't usually have to worry about droughts... But I am currently doing battle with a certain Mr Bobtail, and thus far, he is ahead...

Mind you - I could be wrong in my accusation of blame, as I have not actually set eyes on said bunny. The perpetrator of the crime could maybe be a rat or even a mouse. The fact remains, that 'someone' chewed off almost every sprouting broad bean shoot, then carefully excavated the soil to remove the seed itself and devour it. Just five were left untouched. Today, I am down to four.

Not prepared to give up without a bit of a fight, I have procured a further packet of seed, now planted, and spent an afternoon making a couple of frames to which I have attached chicken wire, and I have now covered the growing area in the slightly forlorn hope that the structures will deter any further bean-pilfering when the second-planting emerges from the soil. I know - bunnies are good at digging, and will likely just creep under my barriers, but at least I have tried.

I'll let you know how things have progressed in a week or two.

The Bean-Eating-Bunny-Beater

Sunday, 2 May 2021


Today's media is full of reports on how close we are to being able to get back to normal life after the extraordinary coronavirus-plagued year we have all endured. Not long to wait then... (Not forgetting those parts of the world which are still enduring dreadful outbreaks of the disease, and my heart goes out to all those affected).

Of course, normal life never stopped going on for everything on the planet apart from human activity. We have had the best display of daffodils here for several years, and are now eagerly awaiting the emergence of the bluebells.

The allotment is similarly in limbo. The seed beds are all planted, but for now show no sign of anything growing. Pots in the cold frame contain the teeniest of brussels sprout and kale plants and we wait patiently for them to grow big enough to be planted out.

We are no longer waiting for the first cuckoo. We have been blessed with their 'song' for a week or two now. One bird amuses us, as it hasn't quite learned the tune correctly and frequently gives us a three-note cuck-cuck-coo. 

Over in Strathpeffer, we have continued to make progress with the small garden of The Old Bakery, and now feel we are finally getting on top of the profusion of weeds that had invaded the ground. The OB now awaits its first holiday visitors, who will be staying there at the end of this month.

We have opened our cottages on Skye as well, and Loch View is looking to be pretty-well full all season, with the first visitors there right now. Summer Cott will be a little less busy though. In previous years, the vast majority of our visitors at Summer have come from overseas, so we have to wait for international travel to recommence before we will see their return.

For now, Skye remains mostly quiet, though I don't think we will have to wait for long before we see a convoy of camper vans lumbering by.

The waiting is nearly over.

Slightly past their best - but more flowers than we've had in years!

Waiting to play...


Monday, 12 April 2021

So Quiet!

It is a very beautiful frozen world here this morning. We are still getting occasional snow flurries, and last night's low temperature left a very thick, furry frost on everything. There's not a breath of wind, and the bright sky is almost completely clear. It is so quiet! I love Skye like this.

But our peace is soon to be shattered. I can almost hear the engines warming-up. The world is buzzing with people who are longing to get away from the lock-down locations they have been enduring for months. And where better to come than the stunning Scottish Highlands, where fresh clean air is all the air we breathe, and the virus seems such a long way away?

Skye is a very special place. The hills, sea, cliffs, mountains and lochs, the light, the dark, the rain, the sun and the silence. Everything combines in a wonderful kaleidoscope of nature that so strongly appeals to the human soul - it is no wonder that people want to come here to experience Skye for themselves.

At first, virus rules dictate that only visitors from other parts of Scotland will be welcomed here. But soon after, travellers from all of the UK will be arriving in their cars and camper vans. There is no question that all the tourism-related businesses will be pleased to get back to earning a living. But I do so hope that the rapid influx of thousands of visitors will not mean the virus will be flooding back with them.

And I'll miss the quiet.

(Photos by Sue)

Sunday, 11 April 2021

A Thank You To 'Down Under'

 I have just received the delightful surprise of a late birthday card. The surprise is even more special because the card has come some 11,500 miles from New Zealand from someone I have never met or even spoken to.

A hand-written note in the card thanks me and Sue for this blog, and for our photographs.

So firstly - a BIG thank you for reading our blog and your positive comments, and secondly, and even BIGGER thank you for your kind thoughts and my birthday card!

We return warmest wishes to you with our love.

Richard and Sue

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Is There Anybody There...?

We are used to Skye being quiet in winter. The holiday traffic here is seasonal, and from October to March, there is only ever a thin scattering of visitors on the island, as the majority of accommodation providers gladly close their doors and have a rest. For the most part though, the eating places and shops stay open throughout the year, and are well-patronised by the locals.

However, during the virus lockdowns, 'quiet' has taken on a new completely meaning. All accommodation is obliged to be closed, as are all the hotels, restaurants, cafes and nearly all the shops. Virtually the only traffic is an occasional builder's truck or courier van. It is a novelty to see a human.

I had to make a trip to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness last week (for just a routine check-up). It didn't really occur to me before the trip that the roads would be so deserted. I arrived for my appointment nearly an hour too early. The hospital was strangely quiet, too - lots of staff about, but not many patients in evidence. I ventured on from Inverness to have a walk in the nearby seaside town of Nairn. In spite of the day being bright with blue sky, the promenade and seafront gardens were almost deserted. There were just a few children playing in a playpark - no home schooling for them, then. I stayed the night at our cottage - The Old Bakery - in silent Strathpeffer before making another lonely drive back to Skye.

I have thought about how I feel about the quietness, and I remain uncertain. I hate to see all the closed doors, the dark shops and empty town streets, and I do not like to have our own cottages standing cold and empty when normally they would be busy with excited holidaymakers, eager to explore our beautiful landscape. But the peace and lack of traffic is something I know I will miss when restrictions are eased and a more usual level of life begins to return to the Highlands.

(Footnote: I borrowed the title to this post from the first line of a wonderful poem, 'The Listeners', by Walter de la Mare,  Do have a read of the poem - find it here ).

Central Beach, Nairn - spot the crowds

The Links and Wallace Bandstand, Nairn
Is there anybody there...?